Tuesday, July 26, 2016


My assumptions before my main comments. Note, you may disagree with me here, in some of these, which is fine. I don't expect complete agreement from everyone.  But I think we all have to guard against Hyper Calvinist tendencies. We are all susceptible to degrees of Hyper Calvinism in some form. I still daily struggle with practical Hyper Calvinism not taking every opportunity to preach the gospel. 

I'm guilty of being a Hyper Calvinist at one point in my theology.  Two reasons come to mind. First, I don't like loose ends or tensions in my beliefs. Second, I was an Arminian at one point thus once I became convinced of the doctrines of grace, I felt betrayed by Arminian theology, therefore, reacted to the extreme against anything that reminded me of Arminian theology.  Also my reading diet of philosophy at the time was not balancing my theology.

I believed in eternal justification, until I wrestled with Ephesians 2:1-9 (after listening to Scott K. Oliphint's criticism of Paul Helm on this issue), then I was lead to believe, in fact, we are children of wrath until temporally we believe in Christ, hence justified by faith, not election as previously believed. I affirmed God only hates the reprobate. But Matthew 5 convinced me God loves the reprobate in some significant sense. I believed God only desires to save the elect. However, after considering the very concept of God's command to everyone (both elect and reprobate) to repent and believe implicitly is a desire or want of God but due to a greater desire He chose not to save all; nevertheless there remains a real desire of God to save everyone yet he chooses only to save some for his purposes/prerogative. 

My main comments. Is this you or someone you know? (Insert name here) was often commanded to repent and believe at church. He/she may also been taught rightly people are unable to repent and believe without divine grace. He/she has heard preaching that emphasizes divine judgment, wrath and hell. He/she may believe, God does not love anyone except the elect so he/she feels, God hates him/her. When that is not the full Biblical teaching of Matthew chapter 5. The preaching has caused him/her to look internally at his/her (levels of) conviction, guilt, shame, faith, experience, in response to the gospel rather than externally to Christ alone. It has put a burden on his/her back to meet standards Christians daily fail to attain for signs of regeneration. Hence he/she believes he/she witnesses daily hypocrisy. No, joy, rejoicing or peace in Christianity since he/she never measures up to the conviction, guilt,  faith and experience told he/she must have. It's insecurity on steroids! It's like Hyper-Calvinism mixed with legalism. A deadly drug that paralyzes the soul. Thus he/she feels helpless, oppressed and apathetic. 

I think he/she needs to hear, and experience the love, hope, mercy and scandalous grace of God in the gospel. He/she needs to see true beauty, meaning, purpose and value in Christ. Only in Him do we see God's goodness, love and grace poured out for us on the cross. He who is beautiful become ugly for us that we might be beautiful in God's sight. He who was invulnerable become vulnerable that we might find safety and security in Him.  Despair and defeat is conquered, by hope and victory in, and through, Christ's death, burial and resurrection. 

He/she needs to know Christ has not left him/her out. He offers himself, to save him/her. He demonstrates the extent of His love to him/her, God himself, Jesus, is willing to die the death he/she deserve to provide forgiveness. Jesus insists one will never have enough faith, conviction, shame, or repentance. A person will daily fail in these areas but Jesus makes right our wrongs. That is the point! We cannot be saved by good works but only by Jesus. It is not about what we need to do. We can never do enough. It's all about what Christ has done. He died for sins (which includes unbelief, apathy, hypocrisy, and shame). There is no sin to great He cannot forgive and there is no one He will reject that comes to him. He was rejected that we might not be rejected by Him. He welcomes, messed up people, with open, understanding, loving arms. 


steve said...

You're going soft in your old age! :-)

Seriously, I don't know if you've had occasion to read this analysis:


R. Dozier said...

Probably :)

Perhaps Frame and Ware are rubbing off on me.

No, I have not come across Helm's analysis. I'll review it. Any more resources to straighten me out? I know Crisp's "Deviant Calvinism" is on my wish list.

steve said...

I'm afraid it's probably too late for you. So long as you were a lean-n-mean skateboarder bachelor, your Reformed orthodoxy was safe, but once you traded that for a wife and kids, you were bound to mellow out :-(

steve said...

Ware's first book on open theism was a good critique of Boyd-style hermeneutics, but Ware's sequel book made concessions to open theism. I think Ware is generally out of his depth. Frame is more intellectually than Ware (by a very wide margin), but I prefer Helm's position on God's relation to time and space.

steve said...

I agree with the OPC minority report:

Minority Report on the Free Offer of the Gospel

On the free offer of the gospel, the undersigned find themselves unable to concur with the report of the committee for the following two reasons:

It is not clear that the exegesis and the conclusions drawn have been conclusively substantiated.
The standpoint of the report goes beyond the expressions adopted by the Reformed churches in the past, and if it should become the viewpoint of our church, might result in the erection of barriers between our church and certain other Calvinistic groups.
What has been the real point in dispute in connection with the free offer of the gospel? It is not the fact that "God freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation through Jesus Christ" (Conf. of Faith, Chapt. on God's Covenant with Man). It is not the gospel offer as God's revealed Word that is in dispute, but the element within the Divine will that prompts and grounds the offer. Nor is it even in dispute that God desires the salvation of sinners and proclaims to sinners, viewed simply as such, his desire for their salvation. The point or rather points in dispute appear to be the following:

1. Whether the term "desire" is employed after the manner of man or whether it is to be understood literally as implying an emotion in God.

2. Whether God desires the repentance and salvation of the reprobate sinner qua reprobate or whether God's desire refers to the connection between the repentance and the salvation of sinners, qua sinners.

3. Whether God's desires are to be views by us as standing unreconciled with his decrees.

(1) This discussion of emotion is oriented not to the committee's report (which refrains from assertions concerning desire as emotion), but to the passage in the Complaint (p. 13, col. 2). That the term desire is employed after the manner of men and is not to be understood literally as implying an emotion in God may appear in view of the following Scriptural principles:

(a) There is frequent employment of anthropopathic language in Scripture, in which grief, anger, jealously, curiosity, and repentance are ascribed to Deity. Such Scripture passages teach that God acts in a manner which we are taught to view as corresponding to the manner of action of human beings moved by such passions. From these Scriptures the presence of such passions in God cannot be inferred.

(b) Elements in human desire unsuited to the perfection of God can be mentioned. Desire suggests a want or lack in the one who desires which can be fulfilled only by the gratifying of the desire. This is incompatible with the self-sufficiency of God. Desire is something weaker than the firm determination of the will. No such weak wishing can properly be ascribed to God whose will is firmly fixed and fixes all things. God has not a will that can be frustrated as well as one that cannot be.

(c) The particular passages of Scripture alleged to support frustratable desires no more prove desire as an emotion or passion in God than the assertion "it repented God..." etc. proves a real change of his mind, or that God actually desired to know that the wickedness of Sodom was as it had been represented to him.

This position, far from being rationalism, as the Complaint alleges, is in accord with the teaching of the Confession of Faith that God is without parts and passions. The eminent Westminster divine, Samuel Rutherford, says in connection with representations of distress, grief or sorrow in God: "'Tis a speech borrowed from man for there is no disappointing of the Lord's will, nor sorrow in him for the not-fulfilling of it" (Christ Dying..., p. 511). In connection with Ps. LXXXI:13, Rutherford remarks, "Which wish, as relating to disobeying Israel, is a figure, or metaphor borrowed from men, but otherwise sheweth how acceptable the duty is to God how obligating to the creature" (ibid, p. 513; note Complaint, p. 13, col. 2).

steve said...

(2) That God desires the salvation of the reprobate viewed as reprobate is an absurdity not sanctioned by the language of Scripture nor precedented by the language of Reformed theologians. Two points are here involved:

(a) Does God desire the salvation of the reprobate, or is the object of his desire not rather the connection between the compliance of sinners with the terms of the gospel offer and their salvation? The Ezekiel passages make express the divine approbation of the connection between repentance and salvation. Samuel Rutherford, in reference to passages of gospel invitation, speaks of "A vehemence, and a serious and unfeigned ardency of desire, that we do what is our duty; and the concatenation of these two, extremely desired of God, our coming to Christ, and our salvation: This moral connection between faith and salvation, is desired of God with his will of approbation, complacency, and moral liking, without all dissimulation, most unfeignedly. And whereas Arminians say, we make counterfeit, feigned and hypocritical desires in God; they calumniate and cavil egregiously, as their custom is" (ibid, p. 511). Of God revealed will in the gospel offer Rutherford asserts: "it formally is the expression only of the good liking of that moral and duty-conjunction between the obedience of the creature and the reward; but holdeth forth not any intention or decree of God, that any shall obey, or that all shall obey, or that none at all should obey" (ibid, p. 512). To say absolutely, God desires the repentance and salvation of the reprobate is to go beyond the mode of expression. To say God desires the salvation of the penitent sinner, God desires that if any sinner repent, he be saved, is to give expression to the meaning of the Ezekiel and similar passages as understood by Rutherford. The gospel offer, in other words, is conditional or hypothetical and as such it is universal. This leads to a consideration of the second point:

(b) Does God desire the salvation of the reprobate, or is it the salvation of sinners as sinners which Scripture represents to be the object of the Divine approbation and complacency? Surely it is the latter. Nowhere in the invitations, exhortations, commands, expostulations or offers in Scripture are the reprobate singled out and made the objects of special Divine concern. Sinners without distinction or discrimination are invited in the external call of the Word.

(3) When God's free offer of salvation to sinners is understood in these terms, while an amazing and even inscrutable diversity within the Divine will is brought to light, it cannot be said that there is a logical conflict between the gospel and reprobation (Complaint, p. 13, col. 3), or that the two should be permitted to stand unreconciled alongside each other. It is not in accord with Reformed theology to assert or suggest that the Lord's will is irrational, even to the apprehension of the regenerate man. Rutherford argues against the Arminians that their view of the desires of God "maketh the Lord's desires irrational, unwise, and frustraneous" (p. 512). The denial of an unreconciled contradiction for our minds between God's desires and decrees is not to be identified with the denial of mystery in the will and ways of God or with the adoption of rationalism.


steve said...

Helm has a good critique of Ware in Perspectives on the Doctrine of God.

steve said...


Eddie Tregunna said...

I second Steve's recommendations and would add the relevant portions of Vincent Cheung's Systematic Theology. Although you may not agree with him epistemologically, he is spot on with regards to the love of God and Election as a whole.

Eddie Tregunna said...

I second Steve's recommendations and would add the relevant portions of Vincent Cheung's Systematic Theology. Although you may not agree with him epistemologically, he is spot on with regards to the love of God and Election as a whole.